Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Weir, P.




Objective: The overarching purpose of this dissertation was to use relative age as a basis to examine the developmental sport experience of youth and explore factors related to sport engagement and positive youth development in organized, female soccer in Ontario, Canada. Female dropout trends were documented for the first time in a longitudinal manner (i.e., covering the pre-adolescent to post-adolescent transition years) in a popular youth sport context. Analyses were informed by multiple points of reference (i.e., date of birth, participation records, competition level, community size and density, and self-report of the participants). New research avenues were explored to generate hypotheses for future research; which included neighbourhood level variables and developmental assets. Methods: An anonymized dataset of all female registrants in a one-year cohort was provided by Ontario Soccer. This dataset included all registration entries across a seven-year period (age 10 to 16 years). A total of 38,248 registration entries for 9,915 participants were available for examination. Several quantitative approaches were used across three studies, including Kaplan Meier and Cox regression survival analyses, odds ratio analyses, discriminant analysis, binary logistic regression, and chi-square analysis. Results: The key finding of the current research suggests that relative age continues to be an important variable with respect to youth sport participation and continued engagement; with the relatively oldest being more likely to participate and remain engaged between the ages of 10 to 16 years. Competition level was observed to be an important variable, with ‘competitive’ and ‘recreational’ trajectories varying in terms of relative age distribution and retention rates (55.9% vs. 20.7% continued to participate at age 16 years, respectively). In general, mid-sized and less densely populated communities appeared to provide the greatest likelihood of participation in youth soccer; although considerable within-category variation was observed. Built environment emerged as a potential avenue for future research. Overall developmental asset scores did not appear to be protective against sport dropout; but relatively younger female soccer players scored higher in two internal asset categories, commitment to learning and positive values, suggesting sport-related challenges may further individual development in these areas. Conclusions: Relative age effects continue to contribute to participation and development inequities in sport. Detailed research into the underlying mechanisms and potential intervention strategies is still required. Future studies should be guided by an appropriate theoretical framework; the selection of which depends on the primary goal(s) of the research.